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The Morning After
On April 15th our taxes are due, resurrection or not

Have you ever noticed how depressing it can be after a holiday, or another of the great celebrations of life? There always seems to be a let down in the life of the church after Easter. We feel the build-up of excitement and expectation during Lent. And then, so suddenly, it's over. I'm sure that each of you have had your own experience of the morning after. It may not always be a blue Monday following a great weekend, but after almost any great turning point in life, there's normally a let down. Wait nine months for the birth of the baby; share the excitement of those first few hours or days of its life, but sooner or later there's a period of depression.

Nurses report that the maternity ward of a hospital can be one of the saddest. It's a dark and rainy day; the initial rush of excitement is gone; the baby is keeping you up all night; you are tired and discouraged, and you find yourself asking, "Why did I ever get myself into this situation?"

After any great success or triumph, after any of the great accomplishments of life, there's normally a reaction, a falling back. You can almost feel things slowing down, returning to the routine and the mundane.

It must have been like that for the disciples after that first Easter Sunday. None of them had actually seen the resurrection. They had heard the reports about the empty tomb; a couple of them had seen a mysterious stranger on the road to Emmaus, but even if it actually were Jesus, so what? Things were quickly returning to normal.

Even if you could, like Thomas, reach in and touch the wounds in his body... Even if you had solid, certifiable evidence that the resurrection was real, there would still be the bills to pay, the meals to plan, the problems of life to solve. On April 15th our taxes come due, resurrection or not! So it was for the first disciples.

On April 15,
our taxes are due
resurrection
or not!
uncle-sam.gif (17439 bytes)

 

They had been to the mountaintop with Jesus, but now they had to face blue Monday. On the morning after the resurrection the disciples woke up to the fact that the world looked pretty much the same as it had looked before they ever men the man from Galilee. It sometimes looked bleak, and it sometimes looked discouraging, and so they began drifting apart.

Some of them headed north to Galilee where it all began just three years before. They even returned to their fishing boats. It had been a heady three years, following Jesus to become fishers of men. But on the morning after Easter Peter and the rest turned back to their boats, and that's where we find them this morning in our text. (John 21:1-25)

As the scene opens, these former disciples, these professional fishermen are not having much luck. They have labored all through the night, casting their nets, putting out their lines, rowing their boat back and forth along the shore. But still, at dawn the nets are empty. It's a dark and depressing morning for sure. Not only have they lost the one who brought meaning to their lives, now they seem to have lost their luck at fishing. Then, as the sun peers over the horizon, they see a lone figure standing on the shore. The man signals to them; he seems to be teasing,

"Hey, there, you in the boat! Children! Haven't you caught any fish? Why not try casting your nets over their to the starboard and see what happens!"

We can imagine the weary eyes of these disciples glaring with resentment. This stranger is telling a boat load of seasoned fishermen how to conduct their business, and he calls them children to boot. Experts, professionals, experienced at every nuance of their trade, these men know it will make no difference at all whether they put their nets to the port or the starboard, the fish aren't biting in any case.

"Children, cast your nets to the starboard," he insists.

Is it out of desperation, or merely to prove this arrogant stranger wrong that they cast their nets once more, on the starboard just as he suggests. As it sinks beneath the silver, grey waters of the sea, suddenly it is alive with fish!

The disciples spring to action, pulling with all their strength, pulling upon the lines, pulling and heaving as the water swirls with life. The load of fish is so great that even these fishermen are not able to bring that net back into the boat.

But then, as the lines are being secured and they prepare to row the boat to shore, dragging their nets behind, they look again at the man on the beach. Suddenly they recognize Jesus. It's him! Peter can't wait until they row the boat to the shore. He plunges in, swimming for all he is worth. On the beach Jesus has prepared a charcoal fire. He has fresh bread warmed and waiting and he roasts them some fish in the fire. Jesus has prepared a warm welcome for his friends. Again he speaks, "Come and eat. Let us break bread together." And that is all he needs to say. For in the breaking of the bread and in the sharing of a meal, they know it is the Lord.

Not surprisingly, commentators have seized upon the curious fact that when they counted the fish in that morning's catch they found 153 of them. As you might imagine, there has been a great deal of speculation about that curious number 153. One early commentator reports that Greek zoologists of the period listed 153 different kinds of fish in the oceans of the world. So that by using this number, the gospel writer is suggesting that the ministry of Jesus is like a net which encompassed the entire world. All kinds and conditions of people are to be caught up in the networks of grace. All of us are to be encompassed by God's unbounded love: Democrats and Republicans, socialists and communists, Baptists and Methodists, gay and straight. Like it or not, God is trying to include us all.

On that blue Monday after Easter, Jesus completed a conversation which he had begun with these same disciples in this same location several years before. At the beginning of their relationship Jesus called to them from these same shores, "Come, he said, "I will make you fishers of men."

Now, at the conclusion of his time with them, he issues an even greater challenge. The disciples must now take the good news to the four corners of the globe. The nets of faith must be spread far and wide until every class and condition of people has been included. They must now make his mission their own.

This was the very last time Jesus would see them. From that moment the disciples would be God's ambassadors in this troubled world. They would take God's truth to Syria and Greece, to Italy and Spain, to Africa and later to Europe and America. They would carry the good new across the seven seas and across numberless generations. Jesus brought meaning to their blue Monday for sure. He bequeathed them his own mission in life. To be sure - had the disciples known then what this calling would mean, they may never have accepted his challenge.

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It's Springtime in Galilee

In the years to come some of them were arrested, some crucified, some of them thrown into prison, and some were sawn in two. And to be sure, others have become poets and philosophers, dancers and singers, butchers and bakers, even candlestick makers. Yet these same disciples, then and now, are struggling to make Christianity a truly international community, encompassing every race and tribe. So it's important that we keep in contact with our sisters and brothers in countries like South Africa and Russia.

If we are to be Christ's true disciples we must begin thinking and acting like we care about the fate of God's children throughout this wide world, not just our own families and neighbors. Like the first disciples, we are challenged to build a community of faith that crosses every border and hurtles every barrier separating people one from the other. How are we to begin? In the first instance, simply by remembering the story of Christ's encounter with his disciples there by the sea. And recalling his simple words:

"Come, and have breakfast."

How fitting. For Jesus, the transformation of the world begins in such a small and simple way. A group of friends having breakfast early one morning by the sea. I realize some of us have problems with the idea that Jesus could have returned from the dead to rustle up this little breakfast. Perhaps it was only the memory of what he would have done that struck them so vividly that morning as they shared a meal along that familiar shoreline. But whether you believe he was with them in memory or in the flesh, the image is the same.

Jesus was not lecturing them, he was not preaching, he was saying quite simply,

"Come, break bread, have breakfast with me."

And he was willing to cook the fish himself.

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Early Christian mosaic

Here is the risen Christ, the one who is called both Lord or Lords and King of Kings, roasting a few fish for his friends. It strikes me that's the perfect image of how we can face the challenge of blue Monday. Whether it be a dark and cloudy morning or a dark night of the soul. Be not anxious that you have not sustained the heights of ecstasy or the pinnacle of success. Mourn not that this morning or any other morning lacks the wonder, the joy and the majesty that we have come to expect of Easter. Thank God for the simple things. On your morning after it may be enough to offer a gift to a friend. Cook a meal for somebody; send a note or email to someone you haven't seen for awhile.

For in such simple ways, the foundations of the world begin to shake. Amen.


Text Charles Henderson; images used by permission, Corel Corporation.

 

Charles Henderson
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister
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